ST. CLOUD -- Drive past our area hotels this week and you'll parking lots filled with school buses, police cars, and other vehicles.

It's been a busy week for the local hospitality industry with the city hosting the Class A and Class AA state high school baseball tournaments. Sixteen teams from around the state are here with eight games played Monday and four more Wednesday.

There have also been about 100 police officers and their canine companions here for a competition since Sunday.

Also, 300 people are here for the Minnesota Municipal Clerks and Financial Officers meeting.

St. Cloud Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Julie Lunning says these events add up to about $250,000 in tourism revenue.

She says there's a number of other big events planned for later this summer including the World Longboard Championships in July, the American Legion State Baseball tournament also in July, and the USA BMX Championships in September.

Plus, there could be another big event coming to town in August that Lunning can't quite talk about yet.

They are looking at bringing a huge world championship event to St. Cloud this August.  It was one of those last-minute decisions with things opening and they are going to make it happen.  They chose our destination, we've been working with them for years to try and get them here.  If we can seal the deal today we'll have some really big announcements in the days ahead.

Lunning says, because large-scale events typically take months to plan, next year will be when the local tourism industry fully recovers. She says 2022 is already looking to be huge with most dates already filled.

As for how our local hotels fared during the height of the pandemic, Lunning says because youth sports were still allowed to be played, they helped keep them going.

That's really what drives this destination from a tourism standpoint.  During COVID in January, February and March we were able to host tournaments.  They were scaled back and looked a little different, but you'd be amazed at how many overnight hockey and basketball tournaments we had.  That was really keeping the hotels busy over the weekends.

Lunning says hotel occupancy rates were down to about 10 percent here in the St. Cloud area during the pandemic, but now they've rebounded to about 60 percent.

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